Vancouver Island is known for many things, whale watching, mountains, beaches, Victoria and apparently one of the world’s largest train trestle bridges. I know! Who would have guessed it?
I am convinced that there are two types of hikers out there… the hiker who hikes for the love of hiking, and…
the hiker who is looking forward to what’s at the end.
I don’t know about you, but if I’m going for a hike, I’m looking forward to a nice reward at the end. You know, like a waterfall, a majestic view, a nice beach, fresh powder to head back down the slope, I think you get the point… it’s got to be something, right?
I think the guy who came up with the idea that there was a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow with a little green leprechaun guarding it would agree with me.
Well this particular hike says it all in the name ‘Kinsol Trestle’. Yup, you guessed it, the destination for this hike is surprise!
Hold on… don’t check out yet, this isn’t any little old trestle bridge I’m writing about here… we are talking about one MASSIVE bridge.
One of the worlds largest train trestle bridges in fact. Which makes for yet another great Vancouver Island vacation activity.
First things first… let me introduce you to my friend Google Maps to help you with directions on how to get to the Kinsol Trestle bridge traill.
This should help orient you and help you decide if you want to make the the journey to Kinsol Trestle:
• 40 minutes North from downtown Victoria
• 1 hour South from downtown Nanaimo
• 20 minutes off of the Highway 1 – Transcanadian Island highway. Close to Shawnigan Lake.
There is free parking at the beginning of the hike in a small parking lot. We were there in the Spring and there was ample parking, but no promises during peak tourist season. I’m sure there is overflow parking on the road though.
The trail is a nice wide, well maintained, gravel path. Picture a train travelling down the centre of the trail or a whole family walking side by side with a Golden Retriever, it’s about that big. The info sign by the start of the trail will point out which way you should be starting out on your trek, or do like we did and go the direction everyone else was going and you should be fine.
There are a few picnic tables by the parking lot that make a great spot for a picnic. Off to the side you will find an outdoor honey bucket, so just enough to take care of the essentials. No access to water, so be sure to fill up some water bottles before you get there.
A few facts about this particular trail and the Kinsol Trestle:
• Completed in 1920, its dimensions measure 44 m (144 ft) high and 188 m (617 ft) long, making it the largest wooden trestle in the Commonwealth and one of the highest railway trestles in the world.
• While it was designed by engineers, it was built by local farmers and loggers. (Farmers can almost do anything, so that didn’t surprise us)
• The Kinsol Trestle bridge trail is part of The Trans Canada Trail is the world’s longest network of recreational trails. When fully connected, the Trail will stretch 23,000 kilometres (14,000 mi) from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic oceans. More than 16,800 kilometres (10,400 mi) of trail are currently usable, making it approximately 73% complete in 2012.
A few handy dandy Traveling Islanders tips:
1. If you have your bikes, this trail is a fantastic option for biking.
We realized that after we got there, so there’s a piece of advice we wish we would have had. Or if you happen to have a horse vacationing with you, they are permitted on the trail as well. I didn’t see any horses, but I did see some horse poop… which was actually quite fascinating to the kids.
2. Here we are at one of the world’s biggest train trestle bridges and my kids found something else much more interesting.
Your kids will love this activity I’m going to tell you about more than the bridge itself, well at least mine did. Go to the other end of the bridge, and make your way down the switch back trail to the river below. Perfect spot for rock throwing! My kids thought I must have been a secret super hero because my rocks cleared the whole river. Maybe I am a secret super hero…
3. If it’s summer time and you’re looking for swimming close by, you are just in luck.
Here are directions to our favourite beach at Shawnigan Lake right close by West Shawnigan Lake Provincial Park – The lake is great for taking a dip or playing on the grass. Just watch out for the excessive Canadian geese territorial markings (Bird poop).
When we rate hikes there are a few things we like to point out:
Level of Difficulty: The terrain on this hike does not get any easier than this! This hike is fully wheel chair accessible, so that says it all. Finally a hike you can bring grandma on! Seriously, she will love it.
View: Forest walk, river, historic trestle bridge with a canyon below and foothill mountains in the distance.
Length: 30 minute casual walk to the bridge, 10-15 minute walk to the bottom of the bridge. Or depending if you want to keep going on the trail the other direction you are looking at a fairly long journey across Canada.
What to bring: Bring water and a snack if you’d like, especially if you have kids. A few nice places for a picnic lunch at the beginning of the trail and once you get to the trestle.